Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.
There are several reasons why Ramadan is considered important:
- The Qur’an was first revealed during this month
- The gates of Heaven are open
- The gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained up in Hell.
The Qur’an revealed
The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong)
The actual night that the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is called Lailat ul Qadr, and to stand in prayer on this one night is said to be better than a thousand months of worship.
Ramadan is often called ‘month of the Qur’an’ because of this, and Muslims attempt to recite as much of the Qur’an as they can during the month. Most mosques will recite one thirtieth of the Qur’an each night during the Taraweeh prayers.
No one knows on which particular night the Qur’an was first revealed, but it is said to be one of the last ten nights of Ramadan.
The gates of Heaven are open and the gates of Hell are closed
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are put in chains.”
Muslims believe that their good actions bring a greater reward during this month than at any other time of year, because this month has been blessed by Allah.
They also believe that it is easier to do good in this month because the devils have been chained in Hell, and so can’t tempt believers. This doesn’t mean that Muslims will not behave badly, but that any evil that they do comes from within themselves, without additional encouragement from Satan.
Almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan, and some will try to become better Muslims by praying more or reading the Qur’an.
Muslims believe that this is one way that the chaining up of the devils is manifested, since there is no other reason for them to do so.
There are a number of special practices which are only done during Ramadan.
Fasting the whole month long
Although Muslims fast during other times of the year, Ramadan is the only time when fasting, or sawm, is obligatory during the entire month for every able Muslim.
Ramadan is intended to increase self-control in all areas, including food, sleeping, sex and the use of time.
These are long night prayers, which are not obligatory, but highly recommended.
Mosques are filled with worshippers who go to attend these prayers, which usually last for one and a half to two hours.
These prayers also give Muslims a chance to meet at the mosque every day, and so they also help to improve relationships in the Muslim community.
I’tikaf refers to going into seclusion during the last ten nights of Ramadan, in order to seek Lailat ul Qadr by praying and reading the Qur’an. Some people live in the mosque during this time for serious reflection and worship. Others spend a few hours at the mosque or home.